The Eight Trigrams

By: R.C.L.

The basic component of the I Ching is a three lined symbol called the Trigram. Each of the three lines in a trigram can either be straight or broken. A straight line symbolizes Yang: A broken line stands for Yin.

Yang ____

Yin ____    ____

Yin Meaning much more than just female/male, Yin-Yang are the Chinese terms for the basic polarities of the Universe. Yang is time, light, strong. Yin is space, dark, weak. Yang is the direction upwards, Yin downwards. Yang is the closed circle, Yin is the open angle. Yang is clockwise, Yin counter-clockwise. Yang is hard, resistant and tense, Yin is soft, yielding and relaxed. By the use of the two kinds of lines each trigram also has yin and yang. Eight Yin-Yang combinations are possible with three components. The trigrams thereby depict the eight types of consciousness (actually 7 consciousness + 1 Awareness). The eight trigrams are basic symbols of Eastern philosophy. They are found everywhere throughout the Orient. They are even depicted on the flag of South Korea. Each of the eight trigrams has an inner structure, image, motivation and essence as shown in the following chart:

1. Sense Soft/Pentrating Grass/Wind Yin Sensing Sun
2. Think Attaching Wood/Fire Yin Thinking Li
3. Feel Serene Lake Yin Feeling Tui
4. Will Receptive Earth/Cave Yin Willing Kun
5. Body Keeping Still Mountain Yang Feeling Ken
6. Soul Danger, Abyss River Yang Thinking Kan
7. Spirit Exciting Thunder/Lightening Yang Sensing Chen
8. Awareness Creative Heaven Yang Willing Chien

The eight trigrams can be considered spatially, all together as a whole, or temporally, one after the other. The spatial image of the trigrams requires reference to The Wheel because The Wheel follows the structure of space. The eight trigrams follow the eight directions shown on The Wheel.


sun.gifSUN. Sensing. The sensing is defined by the weak yin line, outside, at the bottom. The motivation is to be soft and penetrating. The image is grass and wind; the wind does not harm the rooted grass.

li.gifLI. Thinking. Thinking links up sense data with words, following the wishes or motivations and impulses. Thinking has a beginning and end, visualized in the image of burning wood. You should not think beyond the solution of the problem. The motivation is to attain clarity, unattached to the thought. Thinking, like dialogue, is not an end in itself.

tui.gifTUI. Feeling. Feelings experience the inner signals, as opposed to the outer signals of senses. The image is the clear lake which you can look through. The motivation is serenity, to be joyous together, and not to be together in pity or sympathy, which means emphatic suffering with the another.

kun.gifKUN. Earth. The image is the vastness of our planet. The motivation is the receptive, to receive the germ and let it grow.

The first four trigrams are Yin, they result in emptiness of the functions. In Sun, after receiving an impression, the senses are free for a new one. In Li, thinking, once you have understood a problem, the solution is in memory, you cannot understand it twice. In Tui, feeling, a satisfied need disappears. Once you have eaten, you have no more hunger. In Kun, willing, once a choice, resolution, or decision is made, it is done and you are transported to a higher level of responsibility. The next four trigrams, the three realms, plus Awareness, are Yang. They have a certain significance. You have a body, a soul, and a spirit, you cannot ignore them. In Awareness, as Keyserling says, "you face the voice of revelation".

ken.gifKEN. Body. The body has a certain gestalt. You are unable to change it, and have to accept it as it is. The image is the mountain, the motivation is keeping still. Only in the tranquility of silence, of deep sleep or illness, can your body talk to you about his/her motivations.

kan.gifKAN. Soul. The soul is between heaven and earth, spirit and body. It is always in danger of stagnation, based on the six primary relations of the family: Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Daughter, Son. The Soul, like the river, has to flow from the source in the mountain to the sea, then be transformed, die, into clouds, and finally be reincarnated again as rain in the mountains. The motivation is danger and the abyss.

chen.gifCHEN. The Spirit, attained only in the waking state, is always sacred spirit; it is defined by the images of thunder and lightning, and the motivation is the inciting. First you experience awe and anxiety, then laughter, because you understand the game and the rules.

chien.gifCHIEN. Awareness. here means living in tune with the spirit of the time, the East. The image is the night heaven. The motivation is creativity. The purpose of the I Ching is to merge with cosmic creativity.

METHODS/EXPERIMENTS: The Trigrams are accessible to consciousness and physical exercises like the Pa Kua of Tai Chi Chuan. There is a specific Tai Chi exercise tied to each of the Trigrams. For instance, the trigram Kun, the Receptive, is characterized by the "pull back" movement. As an experiment try and place yourself into this frame of mind, the function of receptive willing. If you have a PrimaSounds CD, then you may want to play it softly while you try this. Think about the Receptive and feel the force of your will power. Then stand in a relaxed position, weight even, with knees slightly bent. Hold your hands out in front of you at chin level so that the left palm faces up towards your right palm, and your right palm faces down almost touching. Now begin the "pull back" movement by slowly moving both hands diagonally, the left hand moves to the right, and the right hands moves diagonally up; the body turns naturally to the right. Then after reaching a slight stretch right and a high point, begin a slow downward movement towards your lower left side with the waist moving slightly left. There are also foot movements to go with this, but that gets too complicated for a first experiment or word descriptions, so just let your feet go with your hand/arm movements. Do this a few times, until you can do it effortlessly without self consciousness. Move your hands slowly and coordinated one with the other. Stay with a loose, relaxed body and let yourself be graceful. Pay attention to the energy and movements, feeling particularly the movement back down and left, the pulling back. Try taking a Tai Chi course, or pick up a book on Tai Chi, like for instance, Da Liu's book Tai Chi Chuan and I Ching: A Choreography of Body and Mind. Other martial arts courses can be helpful if the instructor does it for purposes of development of Chi rather than as a machismo thing, as is often the case. One good book on the subject is Martial Arts: The Spiritual Dimension by Peter Payne.

Last Modified on July 23, 2010 11:12 AM | Edit

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